I’ve been married to my husband for more than six years now, have been a homeowner for nearly seven years, and have two children. Yet there’s still a part of me that thinks that someday, sometime, someone will come to my door and say, “Good job, but it’s time to go home now” – as in, back to my parents’ house.
As bizarre as that sounds, there’s a part of me that wonders if I’ll ever truly feel like a grown up.
I was reminded of it again the other night. I attended a high school choir concert for a dear friend of our family. Even as I enjoyed the music, I was struck by how supremely awkward high school students can be — clothed in shirts much too large or too small, hair sprayed within an inch of its life or shifted to strategically cover their face, arms crossed defensively. Oh, the awkwardness. Life after high school is really so much better.
It’s not their fault, really. It’s not an age thing; it’s an experience thing. It’s a confidence thing. It’s knowing that even if everyone I knew and loved were suddenly gone in the blink of an eye, I could still figure stuff out. Sure, I would be an emotional wreck, but I would find a way to physically survive in the world.
But as I sat there and listened and thought about teenage awkwardness, I saw her. Midway up the risers. Blond, head tilted to the side, laughing at something. A girl in the choir – and in the space of a moment, she looked just like me. My heart stopped, stuttered.
And I thought: I was her, not so long ago. And I remembered a time when I began to understand the realities of adulthood. I had decided to spend a semester abroad – a few months in England, a few weeks backpacking around Europe. Trying desperately to be a grown up, yet still feeling so very young. My sister was sick with cancer, again, and yet no one wanted to worry me, so they told me nothing. But I knew anyway. And so every time I started to feel panicked with the weight and the worry and the sheer misery of missing, I would grab a CD that reminded me of home. In the silence of the night, or the early morning hours of cold midwinter, I would remember the halcyon spring of my senior year of high school. Each choir concert throughout the year was recorded, but the spring pops concert was my favorite. And I would put it in my Discman and curl up and listen to it, until one day I must have rolled over onto it after falling asleep, wrecking the CD.
The songs weren’t important because of their brilliant musicality but because they reminded me of home, of being young, of being in a place in life where things like cancer didn’t exist yet and my biggest worry was over silly things like whether someone else would wear the same dress to prom or if I could get away with swiping my sister’s jeans again.
And as I sat there in a darkened concert the other night, reflecting on the last time I attended a high school concert as a student, not an adult, there was one moment of breathtaking vulnerability that brought me to tears. In one of the songs, a beautiful girl walked to the edge of the stage as part of a trio of soloists. Just before she began to sing, I noticed some teenage boys in the front row vying for her attention. She rolled her eyes at them a couple of times, shifted nervously, clearly trying to ignore them. And in the midst of that moment of aching exposure, with the house lights dim and the spotlight bright, she opened her mouth and a sweet voice emerged – clear and resonant.
And I thought about how that’s true for us, as well – that it is when we are at our most vulnerable that God pulls out the perfection inside. Not that we are perfect or that we somehow become perfect, but that through him, what we are meant to do emerges. Clear. Resonant. Perfect.
In that moment, I felt a kinship with that teenage girl. And I realized that maybe I’ll never truly feel like a grown-up. Maybe I’m not supposed to. Because it is in those moments of vulnerability — at any age — that our true purpose can emerge.